What was the impact of COVID-19 on your business?
With up to 80% of air freight usually travelling in the belly of scheduled passenger aircraft, the grounding of almost all passenger aircraft for large parts of 2020/21 meant that both cargo and passenger airlines turned to leasing in additional capacity to fill this void.
ACS has been able to adapt our leasing offering on the back of the strength of our supplier relationships globally, offering converted passenger aircraft (auxiliary freighters) with the seats removed from the cabin as well as full freighter capacity from our own in-house, award-winning cargo division to the cargo market and we have successfully secured several long-term lease contracts on the back of this.
Looking at the cargo side, did this increase due to the urgent medical requirements needed?
Our private jet charter team has seen a 33% increase in turnover over the past two years due to various COVID measures being put in place restricting travel on passenger aircraft, the perceived lower risk of transmission on board a private jet and the more lenient border control policies for passengers travelling by private jet.
In terms of aircraft types, are there particular models that are more popular during the year?
In our experience and from a passenger leasing perspective, narrowbody aircraft are the most popular and account for approximately 70% of all ACMI enquiries that we receive, with the A320 and B737-800 being the key types. Seasonality in the ACMI world is considerable with the North American (Boeing market) and Asian (Airbus market) peak seasons being the opposite to that in the EU, making opportunities for counter-seasonal leasing across continents popular.
Can you explain the process of chartering a business jet, for example to the Middle East?
Travelling by private aircraft offers many advantages, from greater flexibility and comfort on board, to avoiding check-in queues and lengthy security checks. Unlike commercial airline flights, private charters aren’t bound by strict timetables or destinations, meaning that aircraft fly to the requested schedule to suit the client’s itinerary.
The process begins with our team of experts getting to know the client and understanding their requirements, which route, dates and times, number of passengers, luggage requirements, comfort, pets, budget. From there, we can look at finding the right solution for the client by reviewing the capability of the aircraft, capacity required, schedule, comfort and price.
Considering the nature of the journey, we’ll find an aircraft with the perfect performance traits for the trip. This includes things like speed, range and landing capabilities. We’ll shortlist aircraft based on whether the flight is from an international airport or a small, rural landing strip, a short hop or long haul, to ice-capped mountains or the heat of the desert.
With the demand for air cargo increasing globally, how is Air Charter Service dealing with this and what plans do you have to meet the increase?
We are fortunate to not only have a global team of experts in the cargo and commercial jet fields, but also in the aircraft leasing market. Our dedicated leasing team has vast experience across all areas of the industry including airline operations and commercial sectors, having concluded contracts across all major continents, including counter-seasonal and cross-regional leasing and to the more complex and challenging markets of the Middle East and Africa.
ACS has a presence in 17 countries spanning six continents and speaking over 40 languages. This global market-leading strength, extensive network of airline relationships and operational expertise, combined with our ability to quickly identify and respond to industry trends in both passenger and cargo fields, means that we can source a range of competitive aircraft solutions and at the right price by leveraging our local market knowledge and network of connections.
So when the world changed in early 2020, with the passenger market hit hardest due to the global grounding of passenger flights and the increased demand for freight capacity, we moved swiftly to utilise these excellent working relationships with passenger airlines that were built up over several decades by our leasing team to fulfil this excess need to move cargo globally.
Our forward-thinking approach meant that many passenger widebody carriers were also able to seize the opportunity of the increased cargo potential by removing the seats from their aircraft (zero LOPA), creating an auxiliary freighter. These makeshift freighters have helped ACS to meet the additional need for capacity for both charters and long term ACMI leasing and are likely to do so for the remainder of 2022 until the fresh wave of freight aircraft that were either ordered or earmarked for conversion in 2020 begin arriving from 2023.